Norway-based news publisher Schibsted has agreed to acquire online and mobile on-demand music provider Aspiro for 340m Swedish krona (€38.4m, $49m) to add to its existing portfolio of European media and online content services.
Aspiro has divested its legacy mobile content business over the past two years as it switched its primary focus to its on-demand online and mobile music service Wimp and managed multi-screen TV and video services.
Wimp launched in Norway in February 2010 followed by further launches in Denmark and Sweden. The on-demand music service offers users unlimited PC and mobile access to a catalogue of 13m tracks for 99 Norwegian krone per month; additional features include the ability to temporarily store tracks for offline playback and local editorial content (with a strong focus on local Scandinavian artists). By late 2011 Aspiro claimed it had 350,000 paying subscribers (excluding bundled deals and white-label services).
Aspiro also offers the Wimp platform as a white-label service with partners including Portugal Telecom and Canal Digital in Norway (with whom it partnered to provide free bundled music access to over 700,000 Norwegian customers).
Schibsted is the publisher of Sweden's Aftobladet, a leading Scandinavian newspaper alongside a range of news titles in Sweden and Norway. The company has been acquisitive, buying a range of media properties across Europe and into Asia and has made numerous investments in online classified companies in its core markets and more broadly across Europe.
Despite Aspiro's success in acquiring paying users, as a relatively small company in the on-demand music business, it was always a potential acquisition target. Its 350,000 paid subscriber-base is dwarfed by recent numbers achieved by larger international competitors such as Spotify (2.5m paid subscribers) and Deezer (1.4m paid subscribers including bundled offers). However, its strong presence in Schibsted's core Scandinavian market makes it an attractive target for the news publisher.
Aspiro's editorial focus on local content coupled with potential for cross-promotion and services bundled with other Schibsted properties should help it maintain its strong position in Scandinavia. However, Schibsted's penchant for international expansion means that the acquiring company is likely to have also been attracted by Aspiro's ability to compete internationally, in the increasingly competitive yet rapidly expanding online music subscription market.